05/15/2002 12:00AM

Small fields curtail superfecta opportunities


SAN MATEO, Calif. - There won't be an abundance of trifecta or superfecta wagering at Bay Meadows on Friday night.

Only 46 horses were entered on the eight-race card that includes one four-horse field and four races with only five starters. Six starters are needed for trifecta wagering.

Two of the other three races attracted seven entrants, and one, an $8,000 maiden sprint, has eight, which will allow for one superfecta. Superfectas require eight entrants.

The problems filling races are tough enough on weekdays and are exacerbated on Friday nights.

"I wish I had an answer," Bay Meadows vice president Richard Lewis said.

"It's just that the horse population of active runners is lower than it's been the last couple years.

"We've had a lot of trainers out of town this week [because of the Barretts Sale in Pomona] and two of our bigger stables [Jerry Hollendorfer and Jeff Bonde] have been back in Maryland [preparing for the Preakness], which makes it tough when you try to get extras to fill."

When the horse population is down, it limits the number of possible entries and also creates problems with the categories of races. Some categories fail to fill because of a lack of numbers. Some categories fail to fill because they get overused and wear out that population.

Friday night racing has never been popular with trainers. Concerns about running Friday nights are growing with potential labor problems in the offing.

A memo was circulated to trainers that warned grooms would seek elimination of night racing in upcoming labor negotiations.

Trainers have long been concerned about the effect of night racing on their barn personnel, who traditionally begin work at 5 a.m. and often are up until after midnight when night racing is held.

Trainers receive $125 for each entrant in order to pay overtime costs for barn personnel.

Trainer Art Sherman has two of the four runners in Friday's feature race, a $40,000 optional claimer at six furlongs, for 3-year-old and up fillies and mares.

He will start Madison Davis and Crystal Forest. Island Jubilee and Linda Love round out the field.

"They've been trying to get this to go for a while," said Sherman, who was surprised to learn that the race would go even with only four starters.

Crystal Forest won her comeback on April 12 after a 6 1/2-month layoff. Madison Davis has run second twice since in her comeback after a six-month layoff. She has not run since March 28 partly because similar races have failed to fill.

Sherman said, "It's going to be a tough go," when asked about filling races on the final four Fridays of the meeting.

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